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Tape Trading FAQ

I've done my best to put together a FAQ that should answer most of your questions. I am restricting the FAQ to strictly tape trading. But if you don't find an answer to a particular question you may have, feel free to email me.

1. What is tape trading?

Tape trading is the non-profit trading and collecting of music concerts and performances. The sources vary from FM, TV, and for the vast majority, bootleg concert tapes.


2. Why "tape" trading, don't people trade CDR's & DAT's more than tapes?

Yes, that is true, but DAT is short for Digital Audio Tape, to be honest calling it DAT, CDR, Video, DVD, Tape and LP trading is little too long.  The fact is, audio tapes started it all.  Before everyone had CD burners it was all about the tape.  And now that more and more people who record shows use DAT, it's still all about the tape.  CDR's are a great, and cheap way to spread the music, but for the very serious trader there is nothing better that a DAT master or a DAT clone.  So tape trading it is, and tape trading it remains.


3. Is tape trading legal?

As long as you don't profit from it, tape trading is completely legal. I can speak certainly of American and Canadian law on this matter. There is no law in either country that states it is illegal to possess bootlegged concert tapes or CD's. Nor does it state that it is illegal to give them to someone else, which is what tape trading is all about. What is illegal is the distribution of tapes or CD's for profit.

I would like to point out however, that policing of the sale of bootlegs is extremely difficult. Canadian law will not prosecute unless it is at the request of the artist or their management, it is similar in the US. An example of this is the Grateful Dead a few years back. The Grateful Dead were a band that encouraged their fans to tape shows, but when they found there were a few that were selling copies of those shows, they rushed in with full legal action, had the culprits charged, and then sued them for good measure. In the state of New York, law has dictated that legal concentration will be on "organized bootleggers" who are selling in excess of 1000 copies. 

Most arguments against tape trading are actually more ethically based than they are legally based however.  The basic argument go like so: "By recording live shows and distributing them you are taking money out of the artists pocket and stealing their copyright on the songs they performed".  Well no, in fact I'd say it's the opposite.  Let's take Morrissey for example.  Most fans of Morrissey who get in to tape trading are collectors, they have gone out and bought the albums, the singles, the t-shirts, etc.  They have tapped the market on anything they could get their hands on until they discovered tape trading.  People go to shows, they record shows and they trade them back and forth among the fan base between tours, the hobby being reinvigorated with each new tour.  So now I ask you.  Do you think this constant interest hurts an artist?  or helps them?  I don't know one trader who goes out and listens exclusively live shows, forsaking all commercial releases.  Live shows are like a great footnote to any album, a different take on a song as portrayed by an artist on a given night.  Well that's my take on the the legality of tape trading.


4. When was "...Pleased With the Things I've Found" started? 

March, 1998.  Things were a lot different when I got into the hobby.  No one had CD burners, DAT's were brand new and no one had those either, so just it was just analog tapes... Maxell XL II.  I actually created the site in March because I found it hard to trade using only email and the Morrissey-Solo message board. The site was small and really just had my list and a few comments on trading. At the time it was just called "I Know Very Well How I Got My Tapes" which is a name my wife came up with and is still the title of my own tape trading page.  No one really new I had the page except for a few people I traded with at the time.  Over the next month I started adding little bits to the site here and there, and before I knew it I had the site set up pretty similar to hat it is today, and much more than I had hoped for it to be.  In May, my friend Norm Simpson suggested that I let David over at Morrissey-Solo know that I had a site and that maybe he would add me to his links page.  So about a week later I did.  The next day I had over 50 emails about my site.  So I jumped over to Morrissey-Solo and found that instead of just adding me to the links page, David had put a notice about my site right at the top of the news page along with some comments I had made in my email to him about the site.  Here is what I saw that day.

May 25 98 - Monday
Tape Trader website

"...Pleased With The Things I've Found"... check out this resource if you're interested in Morrissey/Smiths concert tape trading. From David Towers:

As you know, with the internet connecting everyone so well, tape trading has become quite popular.

When I started trading in October, I found it hard to get started because I had difficulty find people to trade with.

In April I decided to start a website. (the address is below) It was initially just to list my tapes, but has now expanded to a trading resource page. It has a list of current Smiths and Morrissey tape traders (about 25 right now), a trading FAQ and a list of ALL the concerts that are out there (about 300).

While not my intention I had most of my want list filled within two months.  I took the counter down after I got to about 15,000 hits.  The site has become very much a resource site now and a very distant second, my trading page.  A few years back I added a setlist for every Morrissey / Smiths shows, with lots of thanks owed to Aubry Gillio, Brian Gemborys, Rob Radel, Shawn Kreuger and Steve Catterall for getting that finished. So that pretty much is the story of the site.  In the first year I had gotten the 1990 KROQ interview and transcribed the quote on the home page.  I figured it would be a great thing to have on the site for everyone to read.  I've seen the quote pop up on a bunch of different site over the years, but I can claim I had it here first.  Not that big of a deal but I just figured I'd mention itAnd while I'm mentioning specific's.  The name of the site "...Pleased With the Things I've Found", it's from the song "Ammunition" which is on the Maladjusted CD.  Listen to the song and you'll hear it.


5. How do I get started into trading?

This was the hardest part of trading for me, and the major reason for creating this website. Prior to the existence of this site, it was very difficult. Now, its much easier. I'll assume you are one of two types of new traders; you have something to trade, or you don't. If you already have something to trade, then move on to "How do I find someone to trade with?" If you don't have anything, then there are a few things you can do.
1) Go out and buy a bootleg
2) Find someone willing to do a 2:1 trade with you

6. Where can I buy bootlegs?

Many used record stores sell bootlegs, as do a few people on the internet. But this is the most expensive way to get started, and will probably cost you between $15 to $25 per CD and $10 per tape. If you decide to go this route, take a look around before you buy to make sure you get a good price.

7. What is a 2:1 trade?

Also known as a "blanks and postage" trade.  A 2:1 trade is a way for new traders to get tapes they want, without anything to trade. Here's how it works. First you have to find a trader willing to do this type of trade. Once you do, look over their list and see what you want. You will then be asked to send 2 blank tapes or CDR's to the trader for every tape you want returned to you. The extra will be kept by the trader as a compensation for the time taken to make the tapes you want. You will also be required to pay for the postage both ways. For example, if you wanted 5 shows, you would send 10 blank tapes or CDR's to the trader, and return postage. This is a great way to get a jump into tape trading, and relatively cheap (on average $4-$5 per tape and $2-3 per CD)

8. How do I find someone to trade with?

There's a few different ways. I've put together a trader page, with a list of people of who are active tape traders. You'll find a link in the left frame, or on my home page if you are using the non-frames mirror site. Another popular way is to post a request on the marketplace at Morrissey-solo, and for finding something specific, it is a very practical method. The Shoplifters Union also has a page dedicated to trader sites. Yet another method is to check out sites such as (Please note, in order to use you must register and obtain a login)  


9. What is the best approach to asking for a trade?

Be polite, and be patient.  If you don't get a response, move on to someone else.  Some people are busy. Don't take their lack of response personally.  Email is a pretty impersonal thing anyways, and sometimes it is easier for people to simply not reply than to have to time a no thanks letter.  So again, be polite, and be patient.


10. How do I make a trade?

Assuming you've found someone to trade with, take a look at their list and see what you want. Once you've decided on what you'd like to get from them, email the person and let them know what tapes you are interested in, and of course let them know where to find your list so they can see if they want anything you have. Once you both have decided what tapes you each want, exchange addresses, make their tape(s), and send it off. Then all you have to do is wait for your tape(s). It's a good idea to keep in contact with the person you are trading with until you receive your tape(s), so don't lose their email address.

Also, keep in mind, just because you have a show the other person doesn't have it doesn't guarantee they will agree to a trade. If you receive an email back saying that the person doesn't want to trade, move on to the next person, but never feel bad about it, it's bound to happen now and then.

One final note, there are still a number of traders who don't have a website to list their shows and conduct trades entirely via email. In these cases just email them and ask them to send you their list.

11. What type of tapes should I use?

Whatever the media you are using be it tape, CDR or DAT.  I think the best policy is to ask.  CDR's are better made now then they have been in the past and because of this most traders aren't concerned with the type of CDR that you use as they are all pretty similar, but some traders do have preferences for the higher end CDR's.  DAT traders are usually pretty specific about brand so it is best to ask on this one because everyone is different.  Almost universally, cassette tape traders expect type II tapes. Maxell XL II is the most popular brand, but Fuji, Sony and TDK also make very good quality type II tapes. In any case If you decide to send something other than what is preferred let the person you are trading with know, because if you only send, for example a type I tape or a cheap CDR, and they sent a higher quality, chances are they will be annoyed with you.

12. Are there any other things I have to keep in mind before I send off the tape(s)?

Yes, most traders have a set of trading rules, that they expect followed. Tape trading rules are in place in ensure that each trader is getting the same quality that they are sending out. As a guide, here are a few that are expected by almost everyone.

  1. For CDR's, use DAO (Disk At Once) and remove the 2 second spaces between songs so the show flows from beginning to end without dead air between every song.  This is really important which is why it is # 1 on the list.  Failure to do this will make most traders upset with the CD they have gotten from you.

  2. For CDR's, a new thing that has come up is CDR's made from MP3.  Some traders don't care, so traders really do.  It's split down the middle, so if you have a show that's source is MP3's you downloaded, let the person you are trading with know. It will save a ton of grief later

  3. For cassette's, don't tape with high speed dubbing. It messes up the sound quality of the tape.

  4. For cassette's, don't use Dolby noise reduction, it also messes up the sound quality.

  5. For cassette's don't cut off songs, if a song won't completely fit on side A, put on side B

  6. Always include a setlist, and include pertinent info such as, date, venue, and city


13. I'm ready to send the tape(s), how do I send it to the person I am trading with?

First, package the tape(s) in a bubble or padded envelope to prevent damage during shipping.  Don't use the fiber padded envelopes, they suck and they make a very big mess if puctured. Next, send the package via Air Mail. There is no need to send it priority post, as that is very expensive. A good habit to get into is to email the person you are trading with when you mail the package so they have an idea of when it will arrive, and so they know it is indeed on its way, doing this will eliminate a lot of emails with subject like "Sent it yet?" or "Where are my tapes?".

14. Do I have to do anything when I've received that tape(s) from my trade?

Yes, just send an email to the other trader letting them know you got the tape(s). A word of thanks is always appreciated as well.

15. What if I'm not happy with the tape(s) that I receive?

This is very rare. Keep in mind that the quality of bootleg shows vary. Also since grading is a personal thing, everyone has a different idea of how an A- tape sounds. But if you really aren't happy with what you have gotten, or have accidentally gotten the wrong tape(s) . Email them and let them know. Most traders will want to answer your concerns, and even may want to correct the problem if it is an error they made. What you should NOT do in this case is post a complaint without talking to the person, always talk to the person you have the problem with first and attempt to resolve it amongst your selves.

16. What if the person is not happy with the tape(s) that I sent?

Again this is very rare. If it is an error you made then it is your responsibility to fix the error, even if it means sending new tapes. If the problem is not a specific error you made you should at least do your best to understand what the problem is and ask what you can do to fix it. But really what you do is at your discretion. Know that there is a very very small minority of traders out there that are very difficult to deal with sometimes and there may be something incredibly small that makes them annoyed with the deal even if that something is beyond your control. If you feel you've traded in good faith, and have followed all the guidelines I indicated in rules (see # 12 above), don't worry about it, the fact is some people are never happy, and it's really best just to avoid people like that in the future.

17. What if I don't receive my tape(s)?

Give it a few weeks, not all traders are punctual in sending tapes. Hopefully you've kept in contact with the other trader. Email them and ask them if they've sent the tape already. If they haven't ask them why not, and when they will. In this case, keep after them until they send it, and keep reminding them every week until you get your tape(s).

But keep in mind there can be something as too much contact. To illustrate this I'd like to share a story with you. I had set up a trade with a guy before I went on vacation once and before I left told him I was unable to send out the package until after I returned (in 10 days) to which he responded and said that it was OK. Beginning 4 days after that I received 1 email a day for the next several days asking if I had sent his package, all of which where waiting for me when I checked my email when I got home. I emailed him back immediately explaining what I had said 10 day previous and even forwarded him the original email. I sent the tapes out the next day. What followed was for the next week was unbelievable. Everyday and sometimes twice a day I received more email claiming that I had ripped him off and so on getting more and more angry with each email. I finally got so annoyed telling him day after day that the tapes had been sent I stopped returning his email, which I never do. Finally the emails stopped. A week later I mailed him to find out if the tape had arrived, and imagine after all his emails he neglected to bother emailing me to let me know he had received it.  On top of all that he never apologized for being such a pain or acknowledged that he had done anything wrong. That experience was one that led me to take a very long 6 month hiatus from trading and has made me much more reserved about who I trade with now. The moral is, read your correspondence, understand what is agreed upon in the trade, be reasonable and respectful in all your emails, and know that the mail is only as fast as the post office that delivers it. Patience is indeed a virtue

18. How long should I wait?

After a month you have the right to be annoyed. After two months, you've got the right to be pissed. After three months... you've been ripped off by a BAD TRADER.

19. What can I do about a bad trader?

Tell everyone. The best defense against a bad trader is to make sure that no one trades with them anymore.

20. What if the person I traded with didn't receive the tapes that I sent?

An agreed trade is essentially a verbal contract and you are obligated to fulfil your part as much as the other person is. If they don't get their tapes for whatever reason, it is your obligation to make good on the deal and send a new set of tapes, and vice versa. In over 3 years of trading this has only happened to me once ever. The truth is every once in a while things get lost in the mail, and it may even happen to you someday. If you've been trading for a while you'll begin to learn how long mail takes to arrive at various places around the world. I am in Canada and for some reason the country with the fastest turnover times from here is Sweden. On average it takes me 3 to 4 days to get a package from Sweden, but 7-9 days for one to arrive there when I send it. By comparison I can send a package to the US, to a place only a 2 hour drive away from where I live and it can take up to 14 days sometimes, but usually 7-9 days. One country I have had trouble sending packages to is Brazil. It has sometimes taken up to almost a month for packages to arrive there and the only time a package I sent got lost was to Brazil (it ended up being returned to me almost 1 1/2 months later), but mail sent from Brazil comes relatively fast by contrast (9-14 days). With that in mind I usually leave about 14 days before I wonder if my package arrives and usually only worry about it after 21 days. If it starts getting past 2 weeks you will likely hear from the person you are trading with wondering about the status of the package was. Most traders understand that packages do get lost from time to time, so be sure to stress that the package was indeed sent and then agree on an additional period of time to wait with the understanding that if the package has still not shown up, new tapes will be made and sent.

21. I have a few tapes, how do I make a list?

There are several different ways to make a list. But there are a few bits of info that all lists have in common. They are 1) the date of the show; 2) the venue; 3) city, state, country; 4) length of the show in minutes; 5) sound quality; 6) source. There are some lists that also include the tape generation

22. How is a tape's sound quality graded?

A tapes quality depends on a number of factors such as, generation, source and the ability of the bootlegger. It has nothing to do with the performance. There are a few different methods that are used for grading tapes. The following are the three most popular.
A+ EX+ 10 A perfect sounding tape, a soundboard, studio, or FM recording
A EX 9 Almost perfect tape, only the very best audience recordings
A- EX- 8 Very few flaws, still a very good audience recording
B+ VG+ 7 More flaws (hiss, loud crowd noise), but still decent
B VG 6 Very noticeable flaws. High generation recording
B- VG- 5 Pretty bad, still listenable, but barely
C+ G+ 4 Only for diehard collectors, terrible sound

23. What are different sources of bootlegs There are many different sources and each is usually identified by a short form. They are:
Aud Analog audience recording
CD Mass marketed named CD bootleg
CDR A show burnt onto a recordable CD
DAT Digital Audio Tape audience recording
FM FM stereo broadcast recording
LP Mass marketed named LP bootleg
Mix Various sources
SdBd Soundboard recording
TV Audio of a TV broadcast

24. What is a generation? A generation is the number of times that a tape has changed hands. Generation is important, because the sound quality is lessened with each transfer. A master copy, or original, is considered 0. CD's, DAT's, LP's are always 0, and CD or DAT copies of those remain 0 as there is no loss in quality. They are identified in the following manner; CD-0, DAT-0, LP-0. Likewise master copies are shown the same way; Aud-0, FM-0, SdBd-0, TV-0. A copy of the master, is a 1, a copy of that a 2, and so on. Here's a few examples of generation:

You have a tape that was made from a DAT. The DAT was 0, therefore your tape is an Aud-1

You have a tape that was made from an FM-1 tape, therefore you have an FM-2 tape

You have a CDR made from a DAT. That CDR will be a CDR-0

You have a CDR made from a Aud-2 tape. That CDR will be CDR-2

You have a tape made from a CDR-2. That tape will be an Aud-3

Most people have lost track of the generation and have no clue what generation any of the tapes they have are. And keep in mind, generation is a not used by a lot of traders, but a few traders feel it is very important, so it's better to be informed, rather than not know at all.

25. Do I have to have a web page to trade? No you don't need a web page, but it certainly makes trading easier. Having a web page means your list is accessible all the time, to anyone, not just the people you sent it to via email. So my advice is, if you plan to trade a lot, take the time to build a web page for your list. You'll find it is much easier than not having one.


I hope this FAQ has answered most of your questions regarding tape trading, but if you have some specific questions or more detail on a particular topic feel free to email me at

This FAQ was written by David L. Towers. If you would like to add this FAQ to your site, or use any portion of it, you are welcome to do so. All I ask is that you email me and let me know, as well as giving credit to me on the page.